Ross Browner is someone we shouldn't forget. No, he never made All-Pro or was voted to a Pro Bowl. In fact, the only postseason honors he received in the NFL was making the 1978 All-Rookie team.
His individual recognition came during his college career at Notre Dame.
While in South Bend he was an All-American in 1976 and 1977. He won the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) in 1976 and the Lombardi Trophy (outstanding college lineman) in 1977 and was voted the UPI Lineman of the Year in both seasons.
He even won the Maxwell Award as the top player in college football, a rarity for a lineman. Since, he won the award only one other lineman has received it, Hugh Green in 1980.
Browner was that good as a collegian.
He also set most of the school's individual records for defensive linemen such as tackles and tackles for loss plus others.
Browner was the proverbial "everyone's All-American."
And his play didn't go to waste - the Fighting Irish won national championships in both 1973 and 1977.
All that landed in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The NFL was a different story. He was very good but not dominant like Lee Roy Selmon or Randy White, two players who won similar awards in the same era.
His NFL career mostly took place in Queen City.
The Cincinnati Bengals took him eighth overall in the 1978 draft and immediately plugged him in at right defensive end. There he stayed for the next nine seasons, except for a five-game stint in the USFL between the 1985 and 1986 NFL seasons.
The Bengals traded Coy Bacon, the man who occupied the right end spot in 1976 and 1977 to Washington and Browner was expected to be a blindside rusher.
His coach said about him, "He can run like a deer, he's strong and a high-intensity player - he does not watch the parade go by."
He was noted for being an extraordinary athlete - with the same coach saying if the Bengals had a team decathlon "he'd win most of the events."
Browner, who had three brothers who played in the NFL, didn't become an NFL star. He was a solid, steady, reliable player.
In 1980 new coach Forrest Gregg hired Hank Bullough off of the Patriots' staff to be his defensive coordinator. With Bullough came the 3-4 defense which was what they'd been running for years.
At first, there was talk of playing Browner as an outside linebacker in the new scheme but ultimately he remained at right defensive end.
This meant a different role for Browner. He'd led the team in sacks in his first two seasons in the 4-3 but he wouldn't lead the club again until 1985.
His role as a defensive end changed. He'd have to push a blocker back, read the play, then make a move to the ball carrier. The read-first allowed the linebackers to flow to the ball carrier.
No longer could Browner just take off and then read. He had to be more disciplined but Browner adapted as did the rest of the front seven.
The offense, led by Ken Anderson, gets a lot of the credit for the Bengals' success in the early 1980s credit but the defense wasn't along for the ride.
The new 3-4 worked well.
From 1980 through 1984, their first five years in the 3-4, no team allowed fewer rushing yards than did the gang at Riverfront.
No, that is not a misprint. In the first half of the 1980s, the Bengals stopped the run better than the Bears, not the Cowboys, not the Raiders - better than everyone.
Bet you didn't know that. Few do.
Teams just didn't run on the Bengals back then.
In 1981 the Bengals fought through the playoffs and made it to Super Bowl XVI, losing to the 49ers (Browner got a sack on Joe Montana) and to the playoffs the next year.
The offense sputtered the year after that but the defense remained strong, ranking first in 1983 and then the team went into a transition. Gregg and Bullough were out and Sam Wyche and Dick Lebeau were in.
Browner was his usual solid self for the next few years. Feeling underpaid he signed with the Gamblers in the USFL but returned to the Bengals quickly.
Waived in 1987 by the Bengals (to make room for first-round pick Jason Buck) Forrest Gregg, then with the Packers, signed him to be a backup lineman. That lasted a year then the Pack let him go. He signed a contract with the Rams for the 1988 season but didn't make the team.
It was time to hang 'em up.
For his career he played 138 games, starting 123. While a Bengal he averaged 68 tackles, just under eight sacks, two passes defensed and two forced fumbles per sixteen games. He had a career-high of ten sacks in 1981 and career-highs of tackles (74) and forced fumbles in 1984.
Early last year complications from contracting COVID-19 ended his life way too early. The popular and respected former Golden Domer was praised by teammates and coaches, both college and pro.
He was the kind of guy, one who people respected. Browner was the kind of player every team needs - not everyone can be All-Pro - guys who play good football whether they get recognition or not. Grinders.
Browner is someone worth remembering.